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With Jim Sabatini

Southside With You

Southside With You
Parker Sawyers and Tika Sumpter

Rated: PG-13 for brief strong language, smoking, a violent image and a drug reference.
Reviewed by: Jim  
Release date: August 26. 2016 Released by: Miramax and Roadside Attractions

Late summer romantic picture has some charm to burn in recounting the first date of Barack Obama and Michelle Robinson in the titular Chicago location where both worked at a prestigious corporate law firm.

An unsubtle Southside with You might fudge some its events and actual discourse that the sitting POTUS and First Lady used, but they might find director/writer Richard Tanne pretty sincere and hardly fulsome in his brief, if rapt depiction. With an agreeable soundtrack featuring the likes of John Legend and affection to the urban environment evident in the lensing.

It's what these characters embodied at a point in their lives which would be pivotal for what they going to be and where they were headed, of course, to make history; Tanne nicely dramatizes the seeds of faith within them having to deal with crisis to encourage a growth which would demonstrate in a way future obstacles needed to be overcome.

1989 is the year of this interesting meet-cute, perhaps an analogue to Richard Linklater's 'Before' films with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, when chain-smoking Barack was a bit pushy and Michelle rather judgmental. Janet Jackson is heard on the radio in her 'Rhythm Nation' days as a 'slick brother'  of an intern begins to develop a connection with a 20ish Harvard and Princeton-educated woman, an associate of the firm. The chased doesn't see it as a date as an organized rally is the main course of their plans. Where Barack would be so communicative as to entrance his listeners as well as his companion and future missus, as well as father of her two daughters.

But, their time would begin earlier and end later from an art exhibit to a screening of a Spike Lee masterwork with a stop for some ice cream at a Baskin Robbins. It's clear that individual and mutual charisma exists between surprising newcomer Parker Sawyers and Tika Sumpter (Ride Along) in their conversations which don't steer clear of feminism, religion, and, of course, politics. The talk of their families may rise above other topics with Barack's Kenyan father abandoning him and his mother at an early age and the effect it still has on him; Michelle's clan being very supportive as a disease helped make them stronger.

Knowing who these people would become in this fictionalized version still doesn't detract how watchable and pleasurable, Tanne still reveals a pleasurably facile touch of universality. Especially in capturing the essence and vitality of a competent, resolute Michelle and a more subdued, unfeigned Barack that could be ideal counterprogramming to sonorous studio swill even during an indignant, difficult election cycle.

  Frank Chris Jim Dave Nina Matt Howard Jennifer Kathleen  Avg. 
Southside With You  B+      B+                     B+ 

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